To be more precise, this is how I made one Salad Days strip in particular.
I’m highlighting this because as I refine my writing and drawing process when it comes to Mayhem & Cuddles, I sort of realized that this one strip on this project was the turning point in my prep work by adding a lot more work, work that’s ultimately making me a better cartoonist.
When I first started, I’d think up an idea, draw and write it out on the paper with a pencil, and then go over everything with a Sharpie. Smaller features like lettering and faces, along with my very early attempts at texturing, I did with a small-tipped black pen.
I gradually moved on to thumbnailing my comics so I can make the final one a little better-looking and “professional”, but in terms of putting more work into my writing of smaller strips (as opposed to longer scripts that I haven’t drawn), I didn’t think too much about it really. But with this project, I was super-nervous about doing it right. It was for someone/something else besides my own sites, it had a deadline, and it was part of a contest, so I wanted every single strip to be perfect.
Salad Days started out in my little moleskine notebook before it even made it to my sketchbook, I (very roughly) did the dialogue/joke, as well as what each panel would look like. I sort of connected dialogue with what panel they were going to go into, stuff like that. This, I’ve discovered, makes it a lot easier to find out if I can make dialogue look good instead of figuring it out on the paper itself of the final comic.
Here is where I took a little bit of a different step and did a mini-version of the comic. The reason I did it here only with this strip, which was incidentally the last one in the series, is because I changed my mind about the writing and layout of characters. Normally, I don’t do this step, but I had the time and REALLY wanted it to turn out right, so I basically re-did the thumbnails in slightly more detail (and in pen/sharpie on a page from my sketchbook).
From this, I hit the paper (I like Strathmore Bristol Smooth) and drew out the final strip, light pencils that I trace over with pens, either gel ink, Sharpie pens, or art pens I got at like Michael’s or some art store. I don’t use white-out or white ink or anything to fix stuff, I just try to be VERY VERY careful and have even thrown ruined “final draft” scripts out when I fuck up too much. Also, when I started Salad Days is when I started doing “effects”, in terms of trying to do shading, creating perspective in panels with doing stuff in corners and whatnot, which I’ve started to really like doing because it adds a little something to backgrounds.
When I returned to New York, I scanned the strips, and touched them up a bit on my computer before putting the submission together. I don’t have Photoshop, or know how to use it, so my scans aren’t perfect in terms of how they look on the computer screen. I think I hustled and went insane trying to make these strips look perfect using Irfanview, MS Paint, and I think Image Editor.
Most, if not all, of Salad Days was written and thumbnailed out in my personal notebook, I didn’t put any notes/reference into my computer until after I drew and scanned the final comics. I actually used that project as an example for a Brightfuse.com column about mobile working, because I was in a car driving to Ohio with just a pen, my notebook, and my BlackBerry, essentially putting a comic together as we drove along.
So yeah, this is how I basically do comics these days, from start to finish.